INSIGHTS

5 Mistakes You’re Making in Your Cofoundership…

So you’re in a cofoundership and you’ve checked all the boxes. You have the funding, the investors, the idea and you’ve read all the books and how to’s…

Here’s what you’re missing, though. According to this article, 43% of cofounders are forced to buy out their partners due to differences and arguments. Bullet-proof your partnership so you don’t end up in a messy dissolution. Here are 5 ways cofounders are setting themselves up for failure, and tips on how to avoid finding yourself in the same situation.

1. You’re not signing a contract

A lot of marriages forgo the prenup because couples don’t want to assume failure before beginning their life together. Similarly, a lot of cofounderships don’t sign contracts (or avoid adding important clauses) because they don’t want to infer mistrust or start their business with failure in mind. However, not only would a contract help you in terms of dissolution, but it can serve as a guide, oath and assurance all in one, generating a more trusting and healthy partnership in the process.

2. You made your roles permanent

When signing the aforementioned contract, you might be tempted to ink down your roles within the company. Having assigned tasks, titles and obligations is no problem. In fact, it can assist you and your cofounder during the start-up phase.

You don’t have to make the person with the most experience the CEO just for the flair of the title; be smart about your roles!

However, not being prepared for, or open to, change might cost you dearly in the future. Know that people change, and so do their priorities, values and personalities. Proof your partnership and business by making it like bamboo, strong and resilient but also flexible. It will give you the best chance at withstanding the test of time. Be open to changing your roles within the company, moving to different sectors or even subsections. Try different hats on and see what fits you and your cofounder better.

3. You don’t know your cofounder

According to this study, 77% of cofounders said that their partnership was more or as stressful as their relationship with their spouses. So why is it that we don’t spend nearly as much time trying to get to know the inner workings of our cofounders? Even if you’re wining and dining your cofounder on a regular basis, The Cofounder’s Hub has some great tools for you, ranging from a comprehensive self-assessment test, to the Discovery Session, designed to take alongside your cofounder. Learning the intricacies of your partner’s personality, values and morality will make them more predictable (promoting trust), easier to understand and communicate with. You’d be surprised at how many arguments and failed partnerships could have been spared if only cofounders went the extra mile to truly get to know every aspect of their cofounder. Don’t think just because you know your cofounder since middle school that you’re exempt from this advice!

4. You don’t know how to communicate your needs

A lot of meaning, urgency and intent can get lost in translation – be it because you’re typing, sending a voice note or simply trying not to be rude. However, if you’re in a cofoundership there is so much on the line that you cannot afford constant miscommunication. There are a few ways you can template your speech to promote maximum understanding, such as using “I” as a pronoun instead of “you” to avoid accusatory language( e.g. “I don’t feel heard” rather than “you never listen to me”). Most of our communication, however, can be optimized by making sure we’re hitting the 5 W’s we learned in middle school.

WHO
You
WHAT
Sign document
WHERE
Online
WHEN
ASAP
WHY
Forward to lawyer

Hey Steve, could you sign this document for me online as soon as you receive this email so I can forward it to the lawyer, please?

Using this template promotes clarity, urgency and importance by not leaving anything up for interpretation. Making this a habit will save not only having to deal with the following emails asking for clarification but will also promote healthy and open communication between both partners.

5. You assign roles based on other factors over personality

You might think your cofounder is the better option for the CEO position; they have more experience, have a solid educational background and an impressive resume. However, they’re also extremely introverted, soft-spoken and lack presence.

Are they still the best candidate for the job? Remember, you’re partners. This means that one person’s strengths will be the other’s, too. You don’t have to make the person with the most experience the CEO just for the flair of the title; be smart about your roles! Assign the front-facing role to the person who will shine the brightest in the spotlight, even if it means that the core of the decision-making is being made behind the scenes. You’re selling a business, an idea and yourselves, so you better use your materials wisely!

These are some of the most common interpersonal mistakes that cofounders will make when running their business. Find other ways to bullet-proof your relationship by taking our Self Assessment and Discovery Session. Remember: a happy partnership is one step closer to a successful business!

The Cofounder's
handbook

An A-Z guide for those in, or searching for, a business partnership.

The Cofounder’s Handbook provides insight, practical advice, and proven tips from actual real-world cofounders on how to build and maintain a rewarding partnership.

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